As the new school year gets underway, you may have thought that shy teens would struggle when making the transition to secondary school, but research shows the opposite is in fact true.
Opportunity for a fresh start
When starting secondary school shy teens are more likely to be included in group activities and conversations with their peers than they were at the end of primary school. They are also less likely to be pushed around by new classmates.
This is because shy teens are more likely to be open to receiving social invitations from new schoolmates. They also have less reputational baggage when they start secondary school. This may be particularly beneficial for shy teens if they were were disliked or excluded by peers in primary school, because they can be judged on their current behaviour and freed from potentially negative expectations based on their past behaviour.
The start of a new school year is the time when shy teenagers are least likely to be excluded from new peer groups. But this can change over the course of the school year as peer groups become better established.
Individual group members gradually become more likely to exclude others across the school year as their own status in the peer group becomes better established.
As shy teens are often quieter and less engaging in social situations, they are often vulnerable to being excluded later on in the school year as they struggle to defend themselves around other teens.
Although shy teens may find it easier to be included in new peer groups at the start of a school year, they may develop close friendships more slowly than others throughout the school year.
Tips for parents on helping their shy teen adapt to the new school year
- Talk with your teenager about how they are feeling, who their friends are, and what their friends are like. This type of support helps teenagers cope with stressors and think about constructive ways to approach challenges in their lives.
- Encourage them to get involved in extra-curricular activities, such as team sports or clubs, that will help them become a part of a peer group.
- If they are having difficulties making friends, and this has led to them to not want to go to school or to be upset for many days at a time, consider seeking professional help from a clinical psychologist with experience with teenagers.
This research was funded by a grant 1K01MH076237 from the National Institute for Mental Health in the United States to Heidi Gazelle.
Madelynn D. Shell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.